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Moliere's Tartuffe is a classic example of how reason can be thrown out the window and in it's place is bitterness and hatred towards those whose reason you do not wish to know. This literary work shows us how a person's mind can be so easily manipulated into believing that which it wants to believe and therefore seeing all others who attempt to help that person see otherwise as evil people. Can an rational thinker become irrational to the extent that they can again become rational?
The mind of Orgon has been so manipulated by the cunning Tartuffe that he cannot see what Tartuffe truly is and he chooses not to believe otherwise. Sad, too, is the fact that Orgon's Mother, Madame Pernelle, also believes in her son's greatness and beliefs in Tartuffe so much that she would be willing to shun the rest of her family. I know a mother's love runs deep but Madame Pernelle is so much like Orgon in believing what she wants to without reason. Blindly believing in a person without truly looking at them with full open eyes is very dangerous. You must not only look at the good within them but also the bad or you will not see them for who they truly are.
In the beginning of Act I, it is clear that Madame Pernelle wishes to not even be in the presence of her family because they will not listen to her. Orgon's wife, Elmire, his son, Damis, daughter, Mariane and Mariane's lady's-maid, Dorine attempt to reason with Madame Pernelle about the desire of the family members to be happy and Orgon's desire for only himself to be happy by pleasing Tartuffe. She goes so far as to start calling everyone names and putting them down as if they are pieces of trash to be stepped upon. Madame Pernelle eludes to the fact that her granddaughter, Mariane is not as innocent as she appears by telling her, "And you, sister, seem so pure, so shy, so innocent, and so demure, but you know what they say about still waters. I pity parents with secretive daughters." I believe she is stating she is a trollop. What has she even done to make Madame Pernelle feel this way? Nothing. I believe she has no rational thinking about her and is blind to the love of her son only. Also, go so far as to call her grandson a dunce by saying, "You, boy, grow more foolish every day. To think my grandson should be such a dunce!"
In the family's attempt to reason with Madame Pernelle, it is clear that this brings up only more problems with her and the family. The world would be perfect, in Madame Pernelle's eyes, if everyone just blindly followed Orgon with Tartuffe. But, that will never happen because the family is seeing Tartuffe for what he truly is and will not be sucked into believing any different. The sad thing is that love, in its many twisted forms, is what pit's the family members against each other.
Orgon, poor Orgon, is so deluded. It is so sad to see how far he would go to please someone who is only out to get what he can get. His reasoning skills have all been taken away or lost somewhere along the way and he cannot see what he is doing to his family. Interestingly, Orgon resorts to the same tactics that his Mother, Madame Pernelle resorted to when no one would listen, name calling and sarcasm. So is that truly supposed to help the situation out with his family. Come on!
Orgon, going so far as to trying to manipulate Mariane into marrying Tartuffe, is a step a little too far down the path of insanity! Throwing aside the feelings and desires of his own daughter to please someone who would only make a fool of him and take and take until there is nothing left to take shows us that Orgon has no reasoning skills left in his mind. He attempts to prove otherwise by placing Tartuffe on a pedestal and states, "Tartuffe, however, is sure a Heaven's blessing. And that's the only treasure worth possessing. This match will bring you joys beyond all measure; your cup with overflow with pleasure." You can't be serious, is basically what Dorine and Mariane are saying to Orgon. Mariane loves another man, Valere, and Orgon had promised his daughter to him, but now without any reason, wishes to see her marry Tartuffe just to please him?
Orgon has become completely irrational in his way of thinking and being who he is. He is no longer Orgon, the man but now has become Orgon, the slave of Tartuffe's whims and ways. The sad thing is, was it Tartuffe that requested her hand or is it Orgon that thinks that is what he wants and will give it to him no matter what? It seems to me that even all of the attempts at having a rational conversation between Elmire, Orgon's wife and Tartuffe that Tartuffe cannot be swayed away from his passions for Elmire. What a pig! The crux of it all is that when confronted with the fact that Tartuffe had made advances towards his wife his reasoning was way out the window. Orgon's response to Damis' revelation was of disbelief because Tartuffe twisted the story into a sarcastic tale by saying, "Yes, Brother, I'm a wicked man, I fear; A wretched sinner, all depraved and twisted. The greatest villain that has ever existedâ€¦" He should have been a politician!
I believe that Tartuffe himself was a very cunning and rational thinker. The plan that was created in his mind was born into reality by Orgon's irrational thinking. Even when confronted with the fact that Orgon actually saw Tartuffe attempting to get his wife, Elmire to lie with him, his mother, Madame Pernelle could not believe such a thing. In her way of trying to rationalize the situation, she attempted to convince Orgon that he was wrong is believing that it actually happened when he saw it with his own two eyes. When I got to this part, my heart just sank. I worried if Orgon would believe that he had been fooled by his family and rush back to the waiting Tartuffe. But Tartuffe had gotten what he sought out to get and had no more need for Orgon. He had all of his possessions and needed Orgon no more.
I believe that you can over-rationalize things to such a degree that you become completely irrational in the end. Orgon wanted to believe in something so badly and become a better person than he thought he was in the past. It completely engulfed him to the point that he lost his own identity and rational behavior was a thing of the past. Thankfully, Elmire was, in the end, a little more cunning than Tartuffe and was able to show him for who he truly was; a liar and a thief not of just worldly possessions, but of Orgon's soul ever being able to completely trust in the goodness of others. This rings true to me in Act V, Scene 1, where Orgon states, "Just think of it; behind that fervent face, a heart of wicked and a soul so base! I took him in, a hungry beggar, and thenâ€¦.enough, by God! I'm through with pious men. Henseforth I'll hate the whole false brotherhood and persecute them worse than Satan could."